Elon Musk says he is done with regular appearances on earnings calls. Tesla Inc. and its investors should be thankful.
Musk said Monday, while detailing Tesla’s first quarter with more than $1 billion in profit, that he would no longer participate on such conference calls, “unless there’s something really important that I need to say.” He let loose that news while answering a crowdsourced question from the internet on his willingness to be interviewed by Tesla-focused YouTube channels, ahead of taking questions from Wall Street.
Earlier, “important” things Musk had to say in earnings calls included describing public-health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic as “fascist,” calling a Wall Street analyst “boneheaded” in a rant, and saying he wasn’t looking for his highly valued company to be too profitable. Those are the kinds of performances no investor should miss.
Fewer microphones for Musk should mean fewer chances to lay potential landmines in Tesla’s
path. One of Musk’s most dangerous current games is autonomous-driving predictions, which have already led to failed promises like a coast-to-coast autonomous driving trip and a fleet of Tesla robo-taxis by 2020.
Tesla began selling “Full Self Driving” packages for thousands of dollars nearly five years ago, with updates over the internet, and despite still offering capabilities that stop well short of the name, Tesla has begun offering subscriptions to the assisted-driving features for up to $200 a month. Yet Musk even acknowledged questioning whether subscribing to Tesla’s software was worth it.
“We need to make full self-driving work in order for it to be a compelling value proposition. Otherwise, people are kind of betting on the future,” Musk said Monday. “Like, right now, does it make sense for somebody to do an FSD subscription? I think it’s debatable. But once we have full self-driving widely deployed, then the value proposition will be clear.”
And when will that be? Well, Musk also said that the subscription program “will be a significant factor probably next year.”
The thing is, there is plenty of valuable information that Tesla investors need, much more than pie-in-the-sky predictions about autonomous driving. The call also included better insight into Tesla’s current supply-chain issues, including semiconductor shortages, and news that the Semi and the Cybertruck would likely be delayed.
“In order for Cybertruck and Semi to scale to volume that’s meaningful for customer deliveries, we’ve got to solve the chip shortage,” Musk said.
In addition to the battery materials issue and a discussion about the pros of materials like nickel and the potential future for iron as a battery material, Musk talked about small components that were missing that limited Tesla’s production worldwide, similar to what the PC industry has experienced recently.
“For example, a big struggle this quarter was the module that controls the airbags and the seat belts, and obviously you cannot ship a car without those,” Musk said. “And that limited our production severely worldwide in Shanghai and in Fremont.”
Hopefully, Tesla can find an executive to answer tough questions and give straightforward explanations without the sideshow. Many investors/fans will likely miss Musk on future earnings calls, but they will be better served without his over-reaching statements and predictions.